The Skullcap: to Wear it or Not to Wear it?

by Dr. David Mandler

Following a spate of physical attacks on Jewish men wearing skullcaps in Marseilles, the head of the Jewish community, Avi Ammar, has suggested that Jewish men should stop donning skullcaps in public.

While I completely understand the sentiment, I cannot help but feel that this kind of response will only embolden those who seek to hurt Jews in France and all over the world. Nothing pleases Islamic fundamentalists more than seeing their violent actions against Jews and “Crusaders” bear fruit. Lone wolf attacks against Jews in France have occurred with increasing frequency in the past few years. These attacks were not exclusively directed against Jews who wore skullcaps in public. The hostage taking and eventual murder of four people in Paris at a kosher supermarket last January was a deliberate attack on Jews as well. Yet, nobody suggested that Jews stop frequenting kosher supermarkets in order to prevent future attacks on Jews.

In a society that feels solidarity with all its citizens, a groundswell of support for victims of terrorism or bigoted, racist persecution should be expected. There is ample historical precedence for this in Europe. While the story that King Christian X of Denmark vowed to wear the yellow star if the Nazis forced Danish Jews to don this most hated symbol of religious persecution is apparently a myth, it is true that Denmark went out of its way to protect and save its Jewish citizens from certain death at the hand of the German Nazis during World War II.

Far from discouraging Jews from wearing skullcaps, Jews who normally don’t wear them should begin to do so en masse as a result of these unprecedented attacks on freedom of expression in Europe. Moreover, a mass solidarity movement with victims of religious fanaticism should form with a clear message: we will not be cowed into submission. What an inspiring symbol of solidarity it would be for people of all religious backgrounds to wear the kippah, the skullcap for a day in Marseilles, all round France, and, perhaps, all over the world.

One thing is certain: abandoning a single religious principal or a way of life as a result of terrorist attacks will only lead to more attacks against Jews. Those who demonstrate fear instead of steadfast resistance in the face of such threats by these thugs can expect to be next after the Jews.